Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thing

Last weekend marks 8 weeks since the day my tendonitis reared it’s head and caused me to pull out of my training.  For the most part, I stayed upbeat and positive.  I could spin, swim, aqua jog, use the elliptical and weights, so I was enjoying the mix of training.

By the 5 week mark when I was able to ease back in, I had a few good runs and then one run with a little pain that brought everything crashing down for a few days.  Isn’t it funny how that can happen?

From that one run, I was sure I was back to square one.  That I would need another 6 weeks off.  That my body was done with road running for good.

And then there was the issue of my name… mommy run fast? What do I share on Instagram if I’m not running? What do I blog about? What if I’m done with running for good? Should I change my brand and pick a new name?

Have you ever had a runner’s identity crisis? I think that’s what I would call my experience.  But it gave me a healthy perspective that, in retrospect, was much needed.

When everything is feeling good and all systems say go, I go!! And push and push and push.  How much more can I increase my mileage? How many more minutes might I be able to shave off my race time?

Social media rewards intensity.  The longer you run, the more likes a photo receives. The bigger the challenge, the better! This is not helpful for my somewhat addictive personality.

As I stepped back and considered being done with running for good, a strange thing happened… I realized I could be okay with that.  During this running break, I

  • actually really enjoyed my spinning, swimming, elliptical-ing, and strength training
  • felt fitter and stronger after a swim or strength workout than an easy 5 mile run
  • found my body was happier and more balanced without the long runs
  • had more energy on the weekends (and week days) to really play with my kids, swim around in the pool with them, and happily take them more places because I didn’t need a nap or wasn’t worn out from training
  • found my appetite was more balanced and I thought less about food, eating at normal times and not needing all the extra snacks
  • had more quality family time and my kids noticed and appreciated my energy


I signed up for the Richmond marathon and part of me really wants that 3:15.  I can’t quite understand why.  I mean, I totally get it when I’m in training, but when I step back, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  What difference does a 3:23, 3:15 or sub-3 make next to my name in the big picture?

My kids will only notice the additional hours that I’m gone and the added exhaustion when I’m with them.  My husband will have to pick up the slack around the house.  My body will be back in the stressed zone- is it worth it?

The answer might be yes.

It might be no.

I’m still wrestling with the next immediate goal, but I appreciate being forced to consider how running fits into my life for the long term and to know that regardless of what happens, I will be just fine.

Have you had a runner’s identity crisis? Have you found an injury took you through all the emotions?

Does running start to define who you are and what you do? I think it’s natural to be proud of our accomplishments and plan around races and training runs but it’s also easy for this to go too far (for me).

I am linking up with SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.


48 thoughts on “Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thing

  1. This is me! I’m pregnant with twins so no running. I miss my running friends but I am enjoying the strength training I can do and spin class and long walks with my dog. I worry about getting back into it after such a long time off. I start looking at events for next year. I will need to no doubt accept a long road back and slower pace. But I’m hoping thanks to this hiatus, I can find a more balanced approach. Good luck with yours!!

  2. Yes!! I have dealt with these feelings on and off for so much of this injury. While I do notice some positive things from not training, I also don’t feel like myself when Im not running. Other workouts help but they’re just not the same.

  3. OMG yes!!! During my 10 weeks off from running in the spring, I yearned for a run but found other ways to make myself happy. I fell in love with the gym again and lifting heavy weights. I appreciated not having to wake up at the butt crack of dawn on a weekend to get in a long run. And I’m still appreciating that. Pre stress fracture, I wanted two more marathons. Now, I’m feeling like I have zero desire to run a road marathon again. I think when you immerse yourself in long distance training, you get tunnel vision. Eye on the prize. It all seems normal. But then when you step outside of it, you begin to wonder, why do I do that?
    angela @ happy fit mama recently posted..Chocolate Almond Butter Nice CreamMy Profile

  4. Yes! Running does seem to define who I am, or who I think I am. I love to run, but I’m finding that running 4-5 daily miles, with an occasional long run on the weekends, and not following a training plan is what I’m enjoying. My body is happier without a 10+ mile run every week.

  5. Really interesting post. I like to say that running is what we DO, it’s not who we ARE, and yet it’s sometimes hard to feel that way.

    I think about this sometimes too. Can I keep running the rest of my life? And how will I feel if I can’t?

    I think it’s much harder on runners who aren’t into anything other than running. But I also think that running has a way of sucking us in like no other sport! Those darn endorphins . . .
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted..Summer running had me a blast . . .My Profile

  6. I haven’t had a runner’s identity crisis (yet haha) since I just started running in September. I did identify with you talking about how social media can mess with your slightly addictive personality. I am the exact same way and I am always having to kick myself and remember it takes time to build up to where I want to be, I keep upping my mileage too much too fast and getting random pains. I’m just impatient! This is a great post and I follow you in Insta so I wanted to show my support 🙂

  7. I absolutely had this experience when I was injured this past fall/winter. I had to skip the Paris Marathon and have considered signing up for the Austin Marathon this February because still really want to go after that sub-4 that I missed by 2 minutes last year, but am worried that marathon training will be taking on too much in addition to moving and starting a new job. I keep asking myself, why do I feel the need to take on another marathon? Why can’t I just be happy with running a bunch of half marathons for this year?!
    Gabrielle @ Marathons and Macarons recently posted..10km du Mont Blanc RecapMy Profile

  8. It’s a tough thing for sure, and you bring a lot of good points to the table. I don’t know how anyone with young kids gets it all done! My boys are teenagers now, so there is more independence there, but at the same time….these are years to cherish because we’ll have someone in college before we know it.

    Some of this is why I made the transition to trails. The trail running community is much more laid back, less focus on time pressures, and more focus of just finishing and enjoying the experience. It fits a lot better with my own goals. I enjoy share miles with new people in trail races (and that rarely happens in a road race because everyone is so focused on their time goals). Plus, I absolutely love the solitude that the trails give me. To me there are no junk miles. An easy 3 mile run in the woods still brings me clarity and a sense of connection to my surroundings that roads never offered. I challenge myself by training for ultras and my boys are learning a lot by watching me… from the dedication and grit it takes to complete them to the community and effort of being part of my crew to make it happen.

    Best of luck with your decision! Only you can decide what is right for you 🙂
    Jen Gregoris recently posted..Week #1 of 100 Mile Training & Comparing Ultras to Childbirth?My Profile

    • Thank you for this, Jen! It’s really helpful to hear your experience. I’ve been toying more and more with the idea of trails lately too. My one issue is that I’m not comfortable running them alone. Do you run alone? Or have a group you meet up with? I should try to hit the trails more often this summer.

      I love the example you are for your boys!!
      Laura recently posted..Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thingMy Profile

      • Awww thanks😊. You are a great example for your daughters as well.

        When I first started trail running, I was a little uncomfortable being alone. Once I got to know the trails though I felt a lot more comfortable. We have 3 awesome state parks nearby, plus the AT. I started meeting local trail runners and do have some friends I can run with sometimes, too. It’s like there’s a whole group of runners out there I never knew about before!

  9. YES! As I learn to navigate running with a little one now- I’ve certainly found myself re-prioritizing and also questioning how much I want to or am willing to give for running. I know that in many ways I need running or exercise in general so I need to make it a priority (for my mental and physical health), but I also need to find a way to make that work with the other things in my life. I still have some big scary running goals- maybe I will tackle them and maybe I wont…certainly have to think a lot more about it now and that is A-ok!
    Laura recently posted..Meeting Miss HannahMy Profile

    • Exactly!! I love my big scary goals, but some days it feels like if they are all behind me, that’s okay too.

      Like you, I need to move my body for mental and physical health but I’m finding it feels better to get in 45-60 minutes a day and not all the grueling workouts and long runs. We’ll see.

      Congrats again on your beautiful daughter!!
      Laura recently posted..Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thingMy Profile

  10. Oh yes, I can relate!! Being sidelined certainly gives one a new perspective on things. I also had mixed feelings on what to write/blog/post about since I’m not “running” right now (and will not be at least until September). But, I had a revelation…runners get injured, and sometimes runners simply cannot (or should not) run. That’s reality. Ironically, my blog views have exploded since all of my “drama” came to fruition three weeks ago…apparently, people love seeing that runners are human, too 😉

  11. I had a long, lingering ankle injury about 7 years ago that really threw me for an identity crisis as a runner! I wanted to be able to run again so badly not because of race goals (I wasn’t even racing then) but because of the mental benefits and how much I enjoyed it. I think breaks from running can be good in helping us figure out what it means to us! I hope you are able to figure our your Richmond goals!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted..How to Maximize Your Long RunMy Profile

    • Thank you, Laura! It’s crazy how much being told no in running is so challenging. There’s so much more to life! But it quickly becomes a big part of who we are and the goals we’re working toward.

      I don’t know what will happen with Richmond, but I’m at peace with either outcome, so that feels good.
      Laura recently posted..Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thingMy Profile

  12. When I had a bad bout of peroneal tendonitis 7 ish years ago, I discovered spin and it gave me a whole new lease on cross training. However, it was when I broke my back nearly 2 years ago (oh wow, really??), I had to come to terms with what I could and couldn’t live without. I realized I COULD live without running, but I couldn’t live without activity. During IVF treatments, I was only able to walk, and I came to find so much value in that. Now, as I am running, I am not running for PRs, I am running for happiness. That is what I need right now.
    Susie @ Suzlyfe recently posted..Currently: A Week of Fitness + Work + Recovery (Coaches Corner)My Profile

  13. Great questions! I have a runner’s identity crisis when I’ve been sidelined before, but now that running has taken a back seat voluntarily (while I focus on cycling for a few more weeks) it hasn’t really bothered me. Might be because it’s so hot and humid out, or it might be because I’m making a choice with my time rather than being forced out of running.
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  14. I’ve also noticed the popularity in the media of those who go farther and faster and those who’ve lost gobs of weight. Not sure why there’s such an obsession on extremes, because they certainly are not right for everyone. I have a friend who only does sprint tris. But she’s an elite and she wins them. SO many people automatically ask her about an ironman. I respect her for knowing herself so well and playing to her strengths.
    Hope your tendonitis will be gone very soon. I was out with the same thing for 6 weeks during my last Boston cycle. Very frustrating but it all worked out in the end.

    • The shorter races are really appealing to me right now. I can understand why your friend doe what she does! It’s so much easier to manage with life. And I think a bit easier on the body too.

      Thanks for the tendonitis perspective! I think I’m making good progress.. hopefully it stays away.
      Laura recently posted..Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thingMy Profile

  15. It’s really interesting when you’re on a running break either intentionally or unintentionally. I’ve definitely felt a little “lost” without being on a training plan these past few weeks and I see that running has definitely become part of my identity. But I LOVE how much more quality time I’ve had to do things at home with my boyfriend and how I can be more flexible about trying different workouts. It’s tough! The good thing is that other people go through this all the time. Wishing you a speedy recovery!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted..Running 101: Greatest Tips for Summer RunningMy Profile

  16. Yes! In two decades of running – i have had about 6 million “runner identity” crises! Like you, I’ve focused on the positives as much as possible, but I have always grappled with the question of how good I can actually be if all stars aligned. I want to reach my potential (whatever that may be) but things keep coming up (injuries, illness, kids, life). I’ve always adjusted my running to fit my life (and that’s one thing I love about running – there’s always some way you can tweak it to fit your current situation..even if it’s coaching or spectating others) but it makes me sad to think I might not be able to “go all out” and achieve “more” or run “better.” I think it’s important to find a good balance – push yourself when the time calls for it, but step back and focus on other things every once in a while.

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  19. This is something I’m struggling with more than I was prepared for as a pregnant runner!! Everything has changed. I’ve had days where I hate being pregnant and miss the “old” jess and days where I hate running and am glad to strength train more. But, I miss the distance running so much more…didn’t realize just how much my identity was wrapped up in running until I had to slow my roll and cut back! It’s eye opening and probably a healthy thing for me to work through…somehow!
    Jess recently posted..Less ThanMy Profile

  20. Would you have any interest in sharing how you’re treating your tendonitis? I’ve had tendonitis on the arch of my right foot for over 2 months and have had to take about 7-8 weeks off from running (although, like you, I’ve been doing every other workout I can), but I miss running! I’ve been doing physical therapy twice a week, stretching, icing, and just generally trying to take good care, but any recommendations or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


    • Hi Bridget! I’m so sorry. Tendonitis is so frustrating, isn’t it?

      I’ve treated it very similarly to you. I’ve been going to PT for electro and ultrasound treatment plus stretching calves. I’ve been icing and cross training until the last few weeks as I’ve been allowed to ease back in to running. We also think shoes were part of the problem, so I’m adding an insole… it’s a tough one to fully overcome! I still feel it a bit but am keeping my mileage at about half of what it was before.
      Laura recently posted..Why a runner’s identity crisis can be a good thingMy Profile

  21. I can really relate to this post! I stopped running for almost 2 months and thought I was going to go crazy. For as long as I can remember I have been a runner, so I was a little lost once I stopped running. Seeing other people running would make me yearn to be out there too 🙁
    Since I started running again, it’s been a lot harder to build up my endurance again, but I’m pain-free!
    Thanks for sharing.

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